Saskatoon

'Vindication for our ancestors': Sask. First Nation reclaims original name

It's an error that took more than a century to correct. The Sakimay First Nation near Grenfell, Sask., will now be known as Zagime Anishinabek.

The Sakimay First Nation will again be known as Zagime Anishinabek

Chief Lynn Acoose said federal officials in the 1880s incorrectly named their community "Sakimay," but they recently reclaimed the community's original name, Zagime Anishinabek. (Jason Warick/CBC)

It's an error that took more than a century to correct.

The Sakimay First Nation near Grenfell, Sask., will again be known as Zagime Anishinabek.

Zagime, which means "mosquito" in the Anishinabe language, is the community's original name, Chief Lynn Acoose said. "Sakimay" is the word erroneously applied to the band by federal officials following the treaty signing in the 1880s.

Acoose and her council began the process to change the name two years ago. They consulted elders and linguists, hosted a traditional ceremony and then voted to make the change.

Zagime Anishinabek Chief Lynn Acoose said their recent reclamation of the community's original name would make their ancestors happy. (Submitted by Vic Savino, Southern Chiefs Organization)

"I feel some vindication for our ancestors, who had these powerful and strong names and they were obliterated," Acoose said

"It's part of a larger issue to recover our identity."

Acoose said the hard work of physically changing the name has begun. They're ordering new signs to put on the school, the band office and the roads into the community. They also need to change their Facebook page and bank accounts, not to mention their legal documents and government records.

"In order to do our own reconciliation of the wrongs that were done to our people, we feel strongly that this is something that we need to do," she said. "But it's a long process. We're in no rush."

They've also changed the names of some of the places within the First Nation. Grenfell Beach is now known as Yellow Calf Place, named after one of the community's founding chiefs. Indian Point has been changed to Elk Point.

Other First Nations communities and institutions have undergone similar changes across Canada in recent years.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations was formerly the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and First Nations University of Canada had been called the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College.